November 14, 2021 - A New Heaven - A Reflection on Mark 13:24-32

Jesus said: “But in those days, following that distress, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” This is one of the most incredible things that Jesus says because he’s telling us that his word is rock solid. And it is for all eternity. So we can believe all his assurances and rest peacefully. But what was that about heaven and earth passing away? Jesus says it will pass away. 

What does that mean? Exactly what it says. The physical world will disappear and be no more. Although people's souls will live on, either in a state of eternal happiness or eternal damnation, the universe as we know it will cease to exist, replaced by another universe. John writes of this in the book of Revelation. “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away...” (Revelation 21:1). 

How will this happen? Jesus speaks about this in the passage we are reading now. “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” And then “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10)

This was prophesied years ago by Isaiah, who said: “All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree” (Isaiah 34:4). At another time, he said. “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail” (Isaiah 51:6). 

There is a lot of hope contained there, at the end of what Isaiah says, that we can be confident in our salvation no matter what happens. Jesus is that salvation. This should comfort us. At the same time, we should realize that everything material will disappear, so we should get our priorities right. As Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth ... but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (cf. Matthew 6:19-20). 

That, of course, is the new heaven.